We don’t all live in common circumstances, and sometimes divorce can make this plain for all to see. What happens if you require a divorce, but you’re currently living in a foreign country when your home is the United States? Well, it gets even more complicated than usual, and it’s usually already complicated. Not only do the laws of the foreign nation in which you would like to get divorced apply, but you will also need to get the divorce validated in the United States when you finally decide to return home. That’s where a foreign divorce decree comes into play.

A foreign divorce decree is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a–usually–legal decree that a divorce has taken place between two spouses who no longer wish to be together while at least one spouse resides in a foreign country. Although these issues are playing out in the legal arenas within another country, the United States federal government still holds no real authority over divorce in or out of the country. When you file for divorce away from home, a decree is the only thing that can determine whether or not a state will recognize the divorce has occurred.

No matter what, information regarding divorce is widely sought after and should be taken with a grain of salt when found. Consider it generalized at first glance, and be sure to check up with a divorce attorney. You need to know the local laws of the country where you get the divorce, you need to know how to get a fair and accurate decree, and you need to know how to ensure its validity at home. These aren’t waters to navigate alone, so be sure you enlist help before going any further.

One matter that you need to be familiar with is where you have your home. You cannot expect a state government to accept that a divorce is valid if you did not have a home in the country where the divorce decree was issued. When seeking a divorce in another country, you must be sure that at least one party resides there first.

There are a number of legal terms regarding foreign divorce decrees to familiarize yourself with before you seek one. An “ex parte” divorce occurs when one party is physically present but the other is not. For an ex parte divorce to proceed, fair notice must be provided to the absent party. A “void” divorce is an ex parte divorce during which no notice is provided to the absent party. If you obtain this type of divorce, then you can expect the foreign decree to be invalidated by the state government upon your return home.

A “bilateral divorce” occurs when both parties are present, and these are the most commonly validated foreign divorces. If you’ve done your research, this is probably the way to go.